PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: (L-R) Bryan Bennett #2 and Darron Thomas #5 of the Oregon Ducks celebrate the Ducks 45-38 victory against the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
It is the position preview you have all been waiting for, my opinion on who will win the starting quarterback competition. (Totally kidding) The Ducks have always had a good quarterback at the helm who ran the offense fantastically for the majority of the season. With Chip Kelly the quarterback has pretty much been replaceable no matter what happens. Exhibit A: Justin Roper's Sun Bowl performance where he threw for four touchdowns.
The quarterback race that we see right now is different than the one a few years back between Nate Costa and Darron Thomas. The two quarterbacks had what appeared to be different skill sets, whereas I don't see that much of a difference between Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett. Both can run very well (Although all we've seen of Marcus Mariota is the spring game). Marcus Mariota had some perfect passes and showed a wide variety of throws in the spring game while Bryan Bennett was incredibly effective when stepping in for Darron Thomas in real games last season. Whoever wins probably won't have an impact on what types of plays we see this season.
Whoever does win will truly be worthy of the position, as all the times we’ve seen Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota they have played exceptionally well. Both can run and pass well. Let us profile Marcus Mariota first, since all the buzz seems to be that he will win the quarterback competition. The "Flyin’ Hawaiian," as some call him, redshirted last season after being a 3-star (Scout) out of Honolulu Hawaii. (Marcus Maribrota?) One thing that always stood out in his high school highlight reel is how effortless everything looked. Everyone who plays division 1 football at a high level has a pretty ridiculous high school tape, but Mariota’s featured him look like he was jogging when he rolled out preceding forty-yard passes with a flick of the wrist. In the spring game he showed his straightaway speed on an option keeper but his throws were more impressive. He had zip on passes that needed to be and even hit Daryle Hawkins with a nice ball that had enough arc to get over the linebackers and enough heat to beat the safety.
Bryan Bennett (By the way, I’m glad both quarterbacks have the same letter at the beginning of each name. This way we can call them b-twice or m-twice /shoutouttoochocinco) is a redshirt sophomore. Last year he started against Colorado and filled in for Darron Thomas in the second half of the Washington State game. He went 25-46 for 369 yards and 6 passing touchdowns while rushing for over 200 yards. Bennett’s running abilities weren’t well showcased in the spring game due to touch tackling on the quarterback, because he’s a player who makes people miss with small movements, to the point where defenders simply slide off. He showed composure last season when playing and was surprisingly good at going through his progression and not running the first chance he could. If Kelly named Bryan Bennett the starter I wouldn’t complain, nor would I be surprised. This only means that whoever start is going to be great.
Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie are the incoming freshmen on the team at the quarterback position. Jake Rodrigues is coming off a foot injury but has been practicing. He was the 17th ranked quarterback coming out of high school and received a 4-star rating. Rodrigues weighs in at 215 lb at a height of 6-3, so he has got some size to him. With only a highlight tape from high school to go off and closed practices there isn’t a ton more to say other than to not sleep on Jeff Lockie. Lockie was rated the 49th best quarterback in the country last year and received a 3-star rating. In the past Lockie has said he embraces the underdog position and has surprised people this whole year. All the quarterbacks push each other.
The schedule breaks great for a new quarterback as the first three games are cupcakes and the Ducks don’t travel to play until the fifth game in the season, and even then the game is in Seattle at a semi-neutral field when they take on the Washington State Cougars. The back-to-back games against USC and Cal could be a stumbling spot as both of those defenses are good and those stadiums are tough to play in. Dustin Haines, a walk-on, continues to be a member of the team and will most likely run scout team or maybe, just maybe, see some mop up duty against Tennessee Tech.
Who do you think will end up starting? Will Bryan Bennett get reps in games at a position other than quarterback should Mariota win the starting job? Will Chip Kelly ever have a bad quarterback to deal with? Will Dustin Haines make an improbable run to the top?